Canes maestro wasted on bench.

Beauden Barrett was the lynchpin who directed the Hurricanes to their first Super Rugby crown.

The five-eighths held his form through the late pool stages and then took that command to another level during the playoffs. He was the glue and strike-force, the schemer and goalkicker who held his nerve and the Canes together en route to glory.

When they marched together midweek to interact with their long-suffering fans and the drive-by cheerleaders, Barrett was missing.

Not AWOL but apparently on an All Black marketing gig which took precedence when the Canes shifted their celebrations out a day to avoid the menacing weather in the capital.


Let's hope Barrett's diversion also took him to the outfitting room where he was measured for the No10 black jersey rather than a subs uniform for the opening Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney next week. Barrett is the business, or, as Americans like to say in these days of five- ringed inspection, the real deal.

He should start his 40th test at first-five after 30 appearances from the bench. Two of those were in June against Wales at Eden Park, then the Cake Tin before, with Aaron Cruden injured, Barrett started and became the star billing in Dunedin with 26 points in the series victory.

He was so comfortable, so much in the zone that night and carried that assurance through the rest of the Super Rugby campaign.

The All Black selectors are fiddling around with all sorts of theories to convince themselves and Julian Savea he still has the goods to be a test wing even though he could not make the Canes starting line-up.

That is the prerogative of the selector and coaches - they have delivered everywhere in their four years together and know their men better than anyone else in this rugby-infatuated land.

However, we know what we see. Savea has the form of a diesel-belching bus, while Barrett is a sleek Ferrari running on superior fumes.

If they are going to retain Savea, then there is even stronger logic to promote Barrett in a logjam of exceptional five-eighths talent with Cruden and Lima Sopoaga.

What about the bench, the flexibility Barrett offers from the pine? That's a smokescreen.

The 25-year-old will bring all those qualities and more if he starts. Have Cruden on the bench as a straight swap or sub, while Barrett can play anywhere else if needed.

There seems to be a concept that Barrett serves the team best from the bench where his versatile talents give wider protection. If we stick with that thinking, Barrett will always be a utility whereas he is so much more. He has toughened up mentally, improved his goal-kicking and offered a complete game for international rugby. It's a no-brainer - Barrett should start in Sydney.

Zimbabweans shafted

The DRS comes in for a lot of complaints. India won't have a bar of it and it wasn't on the radar in Zimbabwe. A brief look at the final day's play in the second test showed why it should have been.

Just before lunch as Zimbabwe continued to defend strongly, umpire Paul Reiffel marched two batsmen, one for lbw when the ball would have missed a fourth stump and then a caught behind which missed the bat by some margin. Two poor decisions, batsmen sawn off, no review, game over. Go figure.